Story of the Day: Saint Martha and the Dragon

The story of the day today comes from the Life of Saint Martha. Remember "Mary and Martha" from the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus rebukes Martha for complaining that her sister Mary is not helping her with the dinner preparations...? Well, both Mary and Martha went on to become saints of the early Christian Church, and one of the legends in the Women Saints unit tells is about Saint Martha. One of the most well-known events in the life of Saint Martha is when she defeated a dragon — the Tarasque — using hte power of holy water and the cross. You can read about that incident and other episodes in the excerpt from the Life of Saint Martha as told in The Golden Legend below; I have modernized the language in this presentation of the story.

Saint Martha and the Dragon

After the ascension of our Lord, when the disciples were departed, Martha with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary, and also Saint Maximin who baptized them and to whom they were committed of the Holy Ghost, and many others, were put by the pagans into a ship without sail, oars, or steering rudder, which by the conduct of our Lord they came all to Marseilles, and after came to the territory of Aquense or Aix, and there converted the people to the faith. Martha was right skilled inspeech, and courteous and gracious to the sight of the people.

There was that time upon the river of Rhone, in a certain wood between Arles and Avignon, a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than an horse, having teeth sharp as a sword, and horned on either side, with a head like a lion, tail like a serpent, and defended with two wings on either side, and he could not be beaten with cast of stones nor with other armor, and he was as strong as twelve lions or bears. This dragon lay hiding and lurking in the river, and he killed those that passed by, and he drowned ships. He came thither by sea from Galicia, and was engendered of Leviathan, which is a serpent of the water, and of a beast called Bonacho, that is engendered in Galicia. And when he is pursued, the Bonacho casts out of his belly behind, his ordure, the space of an acre of land on them that follow him, and it is bright as glass, and what it touches, it burns as fire.

Martha, at the prayer of the people, came into the wood to this dragon, and found him eating a man. And she cast on him holy water, and showed to him the cross, and he soon soon was overcome, and, as he was standing still as a sheep, she bound him with her own girdle, and then he was slain with spears and glaives of the people.

The dragon was called of them that dwelled in the country Tarasconus. In remembrance of him, that place is called Tarasconus.

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